What do all of these things have in common?
The answer in my head is this: injustice. Let’s take them one by one, shall we?
Last week, New York joined Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, plus Washington, D.C. and the Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon in granting human beings the right to marry another human being and to enjoy all the rights and privileges thereof.
It was a dramatic moment for me.
I was sitting in the kitchen of two people I love very dearly (State of Washington-certified Domestic Partners), watching them make dinner while Tweeting the progress of the New York Senate and holding the hand of the man I love. I was thinking about the impact this could have on my life. To wit: If New York legislates marriage, does that mean that all the state constitutional bans on marriage equality will eventually be struck down and I could marry this man I love in the state we were both born in, live in, work in, pay taxes in, own property in? That I could enjoy the freedoms other people so casually have without the sense of gross injustice that people who are discriminated against know and feel deeply?
Wow. Maybe it COULD happen.
And then, the legislation passed and I experienced the same shiver of joy I felt when I first said “I’m gay” to another living person. Relief and truth and happiness. All rolled into one. And I knew I was not alone. This may have happened in New York, but it was felt all over the world- and the irony is not lost. The echoes of Stonewall nearly half a century ago, reverberated in every subsequent Tweet, text and Facebook update.
It was really happening.
Rhode Island this week passed a bill which grants human beings the right of Civil Union if they do not qualify for marriage as defined by the state. Another dramatic moment for me. Rhode Island is heavily Catholic- I never thought this would fly here.
Well, at least not very easily.
It is very well worth noting, that Catholics, for the most part, have an overwhelming sense of social justice. Almost all of the polls conducted show a sensitivity to social issues on the part of American Catholics unparalleled by their Protestant counterparts. Still, the Roman Catholic hierarchy has been working overtime to strike fear into the hearts of the people in the pews regarding human marriage. With phrases like “protect your children/family”, “slippery slope”,”moral decay”, “dangerous precedent”, the Catholic leadership has worked to make this particularly deep social justice issue one of moral urgency. I thought it might work.
I was afraid it might.
But Chicken Little and his frantic fear-mongering fell on (mostly) deaf ears. The Catholics in the pews remembered their catechism’s teachings on love, compassion and justice and supported non-discrimination in Rhode Island. That bodes well for the rest of the U.S., especially since more Catholics than not support marriage equality (and that number is poised to increase as the demographic ages).
Some say it’s not enough — we need full marriage. And they’re right. But listen to Rhode Island. They have something important to say — and it’s good news.
A Vatican Adviser last week called for excommunicating Governor Andrew Cuomo for supporting free choice in human marriage in the State of New York. Professor Edward Peters of Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit advocated using the Eucharist as “punishment” and “a warning” for others in official positions who might be considering following Cuomo’s lead. It doesn’t matter that the church has been slow to respond on civil rights issues before- the lesson seems to be lost. Well, on the higher-ups anyway (see above).
The dogmaticism of the Roman Catholic hierarchy is increasingly out of touch with the sensus fidelium — the ability of the people of the church to sense the propriety of doctrine and official positions within the church. The people are clearly seeing something that all the combined high-hatted prelates of the world cannot: discrimination based on sexuality is an injustice- and human marriage discrimination is an injustice.
The reasonable and thoughtful Catholics I know, the people in the pews who know me and know my partner see that all we want is to have the dignity and respect of just one of Newt Gingrich’s marriages. Just one. They realize that the love I have for this man is not a threat to them, or to the church, or to God. Marriage is not a threat to anyone. It’s just a simple recognition of the truth.
The truth of two human beings who love each other and simply want to publicly commit to their common welfare. Maybe with their children. Or a few chihuahas or cats running around. Whatever. No big deal.
Except that it is.
The levels of denial and refusal to acknowledge reality here by equality opponents is bordering on the psychotic. It’s becoming ridiculous. The good news is that with New York, Rhode Island and a very successful Montana Pride, it looks like most of America is beginning to realize that.
The sky isn’t falling after all. In fact, it’s beckoning us, welcoming us.
With a fucking rainbow.